Adventures in Rhythm Chapter 3 - Two Singers
As a fifteen year old it was Jazz that fired my young imagination. However, at the time I was singing and playing in a pop group. Then in '64, because our lead guitarist, like the rest of the band, had poor exam results, he gave it up leaving the rest of us in limbo.
We tried finding a replacement but nothing came together. Then in '66 a guy called John Chappel, a friend of our bass guitarist, came into some money and wanted to put together a soul band. He played piano, bought a Hammond organ and sang. He wanted a brass section and as I used to play trumpet I was recruited. The divide between jazz and soul is very narrow and many of the numbers we learnt were in the jazz vein.
After some months together we had the chance to cut a demo disc, I had come to love the incredible Nina Simone so at my suggestion we recorded covers of two of her songs, 'Feeling Good' and 'Break Down and Let it All Out'
For me, in 1966, Nina Simone was the greatest singer alive.
Since her passing in 2003, her music continues to inspire, both the mundane and the serious. Snippets are oftern used in sales adds or other promotions. For me her repertoire was so diverse. Whether singing savage protest songs or silky love ballads, her piano playing and the tone of her voice reflected whetever passion she was trying to express.
I recommend the documentary on Netflix called 'Miss Simone', if you want to learn about the woman, but for me, like for many great composers and musicians, it is not their life style or behaviour that I worry about. Music, once set free of the life that created it, has it's own life and impact on whoever discovers it.
This song, '4 Women' was on the first album of Nina I ever bought and it had a profound impression on my young mind. It is a protest song but is so understated. In so few words she portrays the lives and plight of four black women. It is subtle but penetrating. In particular I still get moved by the fourth verse. The dynamics of her piano accompaniment completely changes as does the tone of her voice. Then comes the final pronouncement of the name of the fourth woman, so satirical, so damning of those who since the beginning of history have treated women as they have. The second song is her famous protest song 'Mississipi Goddam'.
But how did I discover Nina?
First, I heard this song on the radio>>>
I so loved it I just had to buy the LP with it on. Then, if you look closely at the names on the LP sleeve of those who praise this singer, Nina Simone is one of them, so I just had to find out who she was. Discovery of new music is such an adventure!